The Ice King – 6: The Core

Into the core I dissolve. I remember The Ice King, he lingers. In my body. In my senses. In my mind. In my nature. In my idiom. In my eyes. In my aptitudes. I was never like The Ice King at all yet I am he he is me, was that unavoidable? Down at the core of the centre of the stem of the flow of the pulse there is no movement, no stillness, no anger no pain. No cold and no ice and no view and no argument, no perspective. There is liquid lava only. The core is the place at which everything starts and everything comes together and everything ceases to be, and everything is alive but the heat melts molecules and causes nuclear fusions: it’s as close as we get to the sun. The source. The energy.

As I come up for air I realise to my joy I’m still breathing. In, breathing out. Im Atemholen sind zweierlei Gnaden. I remember things I never knew were instilled in me, but they, like The Ice King, remain, they are rooted, they grow. I grow. I grow out of the core and through the pole, and I form into something almost human. I laugh inside. Not happy, relieved. The fact alone that there is a core. That there is a pole. That there is a word. That there is a thought. That there is a kiss. That there is a chamber. That there is ice, that there is a king. That the king rules me because I want him to only. He has my permission. I am his subject, he is my servant. We get on swimmingly. Like happy spermatozoa we float in the semen of our need towards the egg of our imagination, flagella wagging, willing us on to imminent fertilisation. Often we fail. But we are not unique, we are two among millions and the consciousness from which we have squirted is generous, patient. There is more. There is plenty. We are not alone. We are not lost. We are not meaningless. We are not wasted.

Up through the saltwater I burst, slithery wet and elated. If this is living I’ll have me some more of it, yes. The Ice King, serene now, regal, mischievous, hot, smiles at me knowingly. He knows me better than I care to admit, but I care not. I have him in my mind and he has me in his gonads. Together we’re strong. Let this be our universe. The force that holds us together may yet tear us apart, but for now there is only potential.

Strengthened, revived, I emerge. The Ice King walks with me now, as I glide. I am The Ice King, I am the snowflake, I am The Snowflake Collector, the wonder and George. The innocence lost and found. The anguish, the great satisfaction. The invention. The story. I walk on an empty plane that extends into all directions without end. Absence of colour surrounds me. I have conquered my fear. Not lost it, not abandoned it, no: embraced it, loved it, wrestled it, made it my own. I am the master of that I create. I am god.

I breathe in, I breathe out. I breathe in, I breathe out. The swirls of air from my mouth form undulations of flowers whose pollen disperse and populate the void. It is a paradise. It is rich. It is the land of beauty, abundance. This is where I belong; this is home.

Earth

‘There has to come a point when it stops being about anything, when it just is,’ George tells me, as we climb up the steep, picturesque Yeni Çarşı Caddesi towards the main drag that leads from Galatasaray to Taksim Square, ‘when it’s not about the numbers and not about the acknowledgments and not about the recognition and not about the rewards and not about the money. It’s never been nor can it ever be about the money.’ I’m a little impressed with this insight – not that it’s not about the money, that’s just stating the obvious – but that there has to come a point when it stops being about anything, ‘when it just is.’ I don’t remember having that insight then, but clearly I did. How and when and why did I lose it, ever? What loss. What rediscovery.

I marvel at the people around us and, as I always do, I feel a profound love for them all. I wish I could tell them, or, if not tell them, make them sense it, let them know that they are loved, all of them, but I don’t know how, and I realise it doesn’t matter. I’ve left my Eden. I have done so alone. I am in the world. George walks next to me up the hill in silence, and I wonder how far can I take him with me now. Does he still belong here, by my side, or do I have to let him go. His place may be taken by somebody else some day, but I don’t know who and I certainly don’t know how. Having left my Eden, I realise for the first time that I had an Eden. A garden of peace. Of innocence. Of everything being possible and nothing yet being done or undone. The Serene Confidence of the Now. I left it and searched for the Thrill of the When only to be reunited with the Certainty of the Then. Is there a Certainty? Is there a Then? The expanse of time is funnelling not to the future but to the present. That’s what so reassures me. And so excites me too: has leaving Eden landed me on a planet that is but a springboard to a place where all possible consciousnesses collide?

I want to hold George by the hand to signal: I can guide you. But I can’t guide him. I know what he’s about to embark on, and I want to tell him that he’s going to be fine. But he’s not going to be fine. He’s going to be in pain and in love and in anguish and in joy and in despair and in awe and in uncertainty and in these moments of bliss that seem to make it worthwhile and in the turmoil and in the quiet and in the other and in the self. Does it need to be worthwhile? What worth, what while?

As we reach the top of the hill and turn right to immerse ourselves in the current of the city, I put my arm around George’s shoulder, and we walk the now even street, still in silence. He knows who I am, I am sure. He won’t remember when he is me to have met me, but he’ll sense my presence, and that’s enough. He knows that he’s not alone. I want to hug him to my chest and I feel my arm pull him into me just a little harder to reassure him, but he is too sure of himself now to notice. I like that about George, though it also scares me a little. I take my arm back, but I glance across to him: you are not alone in this world, I want to say to him, but you’re choosing a lonely path. They won’t get you, most of the time, they won’t join you, or walk by your side; they will see you wander and think: there goes George. And that is all right. Because after all, that’s the only path you can go that takes you to where the universe needs you. If the universe needs you. And if it doesn’t, it is still the only path you can go that you recognise as your own. It will lead you here, to me, caring deeply about you, much more than you do, but who knows whence from now: maybe the person who knows is the us in his eighties, sitting on a bench or in a café or in a bar, waiting for us to join him, in thirty years’ time…

We walk on a bit through the throng and suddenly I stand still and my heart jumps: have I lost him already? That quick? So accidental? Ah no. I sigh with relief, he’s just paused to give someone a light. The young man, a little older than he, cups his hand around George’s as George holds his lighter up towards his face, and he looks George in the eye and gives him a smile. George is oblivious to anything this might mean, wanly smiles back and, to the young man’s flirtatious ‘thank you’, not unfriendly but factually replies: ‘you are welcome.’ Oh George…

∞ Pyromania

It was a particularly pointless but spectacular crime that shook the town, the nation, the world. It could not be explained, even though the Earnest Psychologist tried, on TV, to find reason or if not reason then at least rhyme. It could not be put to use, even though the Angry Prophet admonished the people for failing to see its hidden purpose; and could it, oh could it, ever be forgiven? The Sacred Sage counselled thus, but the offence was so severe, the laceration so visceral and the shock so unshakeable that the hand of mercy may not extend for millennia. As for the Messenger? The furious rabble killed him on the spot.

George had recently moved to the area and he was in no way unusual, other than in the ways that everyone is, especially when puberty all of a sudden gives way to sullen teenage anguish and pain. George’s pain was no different to most, so most would have said, but he alone had to bear it and he knew that nobody knew what it was. Nor did he care. Nor did he think about it and dwell on its nature. He felt an ache of malcontent with the world that was heavy and sad and he didn’t have words to talk about it, nor did he have friends who would have responded in terms of pure friendship if he had ever articulated it himself. The Earnest Psychologist, in retrospect, tried to reason that the breakup of his parents two years prior would have been an incision of trauma and separation in his life. The Angry Prophet berated the people: your passive aggression, your smug disengagement, your unbearable peace! Someone needed to come to infuriate you! To shake you! His pain is now yours. Own his pain! And turn it on the system that pains you! The Sacred Sage knew not of pain or system but he knew of love. ‘Love this boy, he is your son,’ he said, as they shouted him down: ‘the world you are part of, that you are a creation and at the same time creators of, is the world that has all of you in it and all that you hold dear, and it also has him in it, and all that you despise; if you despise him you despise part of you: the hatred that pains you is the hatred for the part of you that you don’t want to know. Love him like your son; more than your son! Love him and forgive him: extend the hand of friendship to him and say these words: you are redeemed.’ But George was not redeemed. They cried, ‘he has not atoned and he has not shown remorse, he has not begged for our forgiveness, on his knees, as he must, for the horrendousness of his deed has no bounds.’ The Sacred Sage sighed.

George was wandering along the beach that he had recently moved to, with his father, a spruce man called Mark. Mark was a good dad to George and he loved his son in an uncomplicated way that as far as he knew and was able to tell made sense and sufficed. It was not an ungenerous love, it was genuine. Real. George had no reason to doubt that his dad loved him, and his dad was far from his mind. On his mind was nothing specific as he ambled, listlessly, on the promenade from his new flat – he did not think of it yet as his home; events he himself was about to unleash were to make sure that he never would – by Boscombe Pier towards Bournemouth town.

He wasn’t thinking of his friends (he had one or two), or his class mates (he was mostly indifferent to them), nor was he thinking of any girl. Sometimes he thought of a girl, there was one in his class who was undeniably pretty, and sassy too, and whose lips curled up by the edge of her mouth when she smiled, which he thought was attractive, and her name was Sarah, which reminded him of his aunt, who was also called Sarah, but he was not thinking of his aunt either that evening, making his way slowly towards Bournemouth Pier. He wasn’t thinking of homework nor of any sports teams he may or may not have had a passing interest in, and he wasn’t thinking of a nondescript future. Nor was he thinking there was no future, or that the future would be nondescript. (As it turned out, the future for George would be highly specific), he was moving at the languid pace of a lanky youth westwards, and he was going to meet up with some mates. This thought, such as it was, neither uneased nor excited him: it was one of those things that one did.

So George’s head was not filled with anything in particular at this time: he was neither angry nor sad, not lonely nor elated. He hadn’t had anything to drink at this point, and he had not taken any drugs either. The Earnest Psychologist found this hardest to deal with in retrospect: there was no trigger, no immediate cause. Not now, and not in the hours and days that followed. The Angry Prophet disagreed: the cause was all around: the cause was there right in front of him: just look at it and you see it, open your eyes! The Sacred Sage knew not of any cause or what causes might be ‘good’ or ‘sufficient’ or ‘real’; he spake unto them: ‘have done, with fear and loathing and hatred and cause. Love him as if he had given or needed no cause.’ They yelled at him words of shame and abuse.

What caught his eye and his attention and filled his head with a leftfield thought – one that seemed to come out of nowhere and should have fleeted through his mind without trace, but didn’t: it lodged itself there and nested, and laid its eggs and sat on them, warm and soft and heavy, till these thought eggs hatched, and they were not quiet or timid, but loud and vigorous and demanding to be fed with action – what ignited the spark of mischievous unrest that would have to – there already was no escape – yield onto abject disaster but also glorious ecstasy, if but for one moment, what was on his mind were the beach huts.

The Snowflake Collector – 6: A Snowflake Not Unlike Him

Some of the snowflakes came down in clusters, others in twirling jumbles, and others still in flighty twists, but he knew he needed a steady snowflake that was on its own, a lone snowflake, disentangled, unburdened, unencumbered, free: a snowflake not unlike him, a snowflake that had been gently descending along its unspectacular way through the world and was now ready to leave its most particular, most individual mark.

Such a snowflake soon caught his eye, as it approached, a little slower than some of the clumpier ones around it and a little faster than some of the ones that didn’t quite seem formed yet, and he held out his bare hand with the glass plate on it, and as if a little curious, as if attracted, as if called by this strip of translucence in its path, it settled, and lo: it stayed. Like a bed made for it, like a throne on which now to sit, like a home that was primed now and ready for it there to live, the snowflake accepted this destination and delivered its presence onto the plate; its intricate shape, its form, its identity kissed into the fast drying liquid.

The Snowflake Collector looked at his treasure in sheer wonder. ‘My dear good friend, I can’t presume to know you, but may I name you Ferdinand.’ The snowflake did not object to being so named; and The Snowflake Collector solemnly took him inside, looked at him closely, as closely as he could with his bare eyes, under the light, and he dabbed one more drop of superglue over him to fix him and then lay another glass plate on top of Ferdinand, to protect him. Also, he realised, to encase him: his bed, his throne, was also his tomb.

A deep pain and anguish drove through The Snowflake Collector’s heart at this moment: am I committing a crime, am I stealing Ferdinand’s soul? Should he not have been allowed to ease himself onto the ground or the bench or the table, among his companions, and then melt away with the sun, seep into the ground, dissolve into his watery molecules and find his way back into the rhythm of the universe? Is my keeping him captive here now for as long as these glass plates will last not depriving his spirit from turning into something else, something different, but equally wondrous? Is somewhere in the cycle of nature something now missing, because I have named this snowflake Ferdinand and declared him mine own?

This so deeply troubled The Snowflake Collector that he spent many hours sitting at his table in his very small kitchen, not eating anything, not even Bündnerfleisch and barely touching his Chrüterschnapps, wondering how, if ever, he could atone for this act of appropriation. Who am I, he thought, to claim such a beautiful thing? How dare I deprive it of its link to its past and its future? Is it not insufferably arrogant and presumptuous of me to make me his ‘master’?

He felt the abyss of despair open up its gaping void before him, and the urge to throw his third, his successful case for the snowflakes into the fire overcame him, but he felt no power to let go of Ferdinand. Could it be, he wondered, in passionate silence, that I am already in love with him? Has making him mine already made me his just as much, am I already, only hours after capturing him, entirely under his spell? And this is only one, my first one, how will I bear adding to him? Will he and the power he has over me not become so overwhelming as to be meaningless? Will he and his fellows, his peers, entirely take over? Will I succumb to their unbearable potency?

The Snowflake Collector did not go to bed that night. Slumped over the table by the flickering flames in the stove he sat there, clasping the glass plates between which he had immortalised – by, he felt, killing – his snowflake friend Ferdinand, and when he woke up in the morning, the blood from his hand where the sharp edge of the glass had cut into his flesh had encrusted his hand and the table and also the glass, and a drop of his blood had seeped in between the two glass plates, and so together with his first snowflake there was now preserved there also a drop of himself and he said to himself: so be it.

I shall surrender to the will of the universe, and if it is not the will of the universe it is the frivolity of my imagination I shall follow. Ferdinand will forgive me. Or maybe he can’t. But I shall make his agony worthwhile: I shall share him with the world. And that way, maybe, he too, not just I, can have a purpose beyond our mere existence.

He put Ferdinand in his pocket and, still not having eaten anything, made his way down to the inn on the edge of the hamlet, an hour or so from his hut, and there introduced him – holding out his still unwashed, bloodied hand – to Yanosh. ‘Look,’ he said; and Yanosh took the plate from his hand and held it up against the light, and his eyes lit up with equal awe. Yanosh, after a minute or two of examining him took out his smartphone and photographed him with the light shining through him, and handed him back and asked: ‘what name did you choose?’

‘Ferdinand.’

‘I like Ferdinand,’ Yanosh said. ‘I’ll have to get hold of a macro lens for my camera, so I can take better pictures.’


5: He Had Abandoned the Notion of ‘Hurry’ <

> 7: Every Day Brought New Gifts Now


11 Death (Imagined)

I noticed I was dead when I saw myself lying dead in my bed; looking down on myself from a great height: there I was. Gone. A lifelong flirtation with significance, over. And nothing dreadful in consequence. No pain, no loss, no uncertainty. Just the remorseless ease of an expired existence. Of almost failure. Of having nearly been. Something or other. Someone? Then I woke up and realised that it had been a dream. I don’t like to say ‘only’, but it had been ‘only’ a dream. I had dreamt my self dead. What new joys. Wait on me.

It’s hard now to say what perplexed me more. Being dead (in my dream), or being alive (after all). But finding myself thus among the quick in a hitherto slow existence, I believed I had heard, and was minded to heed, a call for action: I got out of bed and made coffee.

Mug in hand I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, naked. I do that a lot these days, I examine my body. I marvel at it, not admiringly: bemused. I don’t look for blemishes or signs of decay, I look for signs of familiarity; for something that says: this is you. I don’t find it. The person standing naked in the mirror in front of me could be anybody. It’s not that I’m alien to myself or strange, just: unfamiliar. I’m roughly fifty and not beautiful. What I marvel at is not beauty. What I marvel at is the fact that I don’t recognise myself in the shape I’ve become. I’m not even unattractive. In fact, I may be more attractive now than I’ve ever been. And I’m not even sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I’m not sure it’s a thing. Any more. ‘Attractive.’ To what and to whom and to what end. Nevertheless, I’m a little alarmed because it seems late in the day to suddenly start feeling attractive. Alarmed but a little reassured too, because perhaps it just means I’m not over the hill. What is the hill? Going down is supposed to be easier than going up. What ride am I in for? Now?

Mug in hand I stand in front of the mirror naked, looking for signs of familiarity. The eyes maybe. Or the nose. Maybe the lips. I’m stubbly and I like it. There. That’s something to hold on to: seeing as it is that I’m alive there’s one thing that I’m happy with and that’s worth holding on to: my stubble.

I remind myself I am sitting opposite my young self and I had promised my young self – not so much promised, perhaps, as enticed him over by means of the prospect of – a question. My mind goes blank. The memory of imagining my own death, even just as a dream, and the image of my standing in front of the mirror naked, mug in hand, and content that I have inexplicably become ‘attractive’, possibly owing to stubble (which has since grown somewhat into a near-mature beard) sends a shudder down my spine and I put down my Mojito too firmly.

‘George,’ I say, sensing that something – anything – is required from me at this point, ‘what are you doing in Istanbul?’

This is not, obviously, the question I’d had in mind for him, but then I can’t begin to conceive of what question I might have had in mind for him, and since it’s a question that is playing on my mind about myself (what am I doing in Istanbul?) I feel it is pertinent, or if not pertinent then perhaps justified, or if not justified then at least maybe useful, useful in as much at least as it might open the conversation and at this point in the proceedings (are these ‘proceedings’, and if so what are they?) I yearn for a touch of conversation.

I startle myself at realising I also yearn for a touch, his touch, any touch, some contact beyond verbal, visual, aural, and I want to place my hand over his in a fatherly gesture. I don’t. But there are now two versions of us sitting at this table in the garden of the Limonlu Bahçe: one, the ‘real’ one, in which he still holds his glass in both his hands and has his eyes not exactly fixed but nevertheless on it, whereas I look at him in my ongoing state of bewilderment, and one, the ‘imagined’ one in my mind where he has put down his glass and I have cupped my left hand over both his hands and I look him in the eyes and he looks back into mine.

‘Not exactly sure,’ he says – in one version examining the glass in his hands and twisting it slightly, in the other holding my gaze with a blend of confidence and the uncertainty his words imply – ‘I was doing Interrail with a friend, I had no intention of coming here really, but maybe circumstances conspired…’

I know at once that they did, even though I still don’t remember this scene from my past, and I am immeasurably relieved; he is, although he doesn’t know it, similarly displaced from his own reality: we are on the same page, more or less.

I imagine squeezing his hand and cupping my right hand around his neck and pulling him close so he can rest his head for a while on my shoulder, but instead I pick up my glass and lift it up to him and say, as if I had any authority to do so: ‘welcome to Istanbul,’ to which, in both versions, he too raises his glass and clinks it with mine and, once again gamely, says: ‘welcome to Istanbul.’